Broncos not taking Rebels lightly
Harper, Ajayi finding rhythm in backfield
Despite UNLV's record, Boise State is preparing for a tight game. Video by IdahoOnYourSide.comvideo
That's the way Chris Petersen describes having to count on contributions from young players. If that's the way it is at Boise State, imagine the growing pains at UNLV.
Head coach Bobby Hauck is starting eight freshmen and sophomores on offense and three more freshmen on defense. UNLV's defensive corps is giving up 36 points per contest; a total not conducive to winning football games. As a result, the Rebels are 1-6 this season and just 5-and-27 since Hauck took the reigns in 2010.
However, there are some bright spots amongst the Rebel rubble.
Freshman quarterback Nick Sherry is on pace to break the Mountain West freshman passing record, and his offense has kept UNLV close in almost every game. In fact, the Rebels have lost three games by 5 points or less.
"I think every week they're getting better," noted Broncos Head Coach Chris Petersen. "They fight, and they're well-coached and they play hard and they like football. That jumps out at me loud and clear."
Petersen isn't overlooking the team he beat by 27 last year.
"I think it's one of those games where if anybody is paying attention to their record, you're paying attention to the wrong thing."
Despite their rough start, it appears that the Rebels are committed to Hauck and his game-plan, as evidenced by UNLV's near upset of Nevada last week.
"You know, I think when you're at this point in the season, when maybe your record isn't what you want it to be, you can sometimes see guys not play hard... But you don't see that with UNLV," remarked Petersen.
Coach Pete's attitude was echoed by his players.
"I don't think we think of any game as a trap game," said runningback D.J. Harper. "We take every opponent seriously. This is a really good, dangerous team and we're excited to play them. It's an even match-up out there, and it's going to come down to who wants it more."
If Saturday's game comes down to "who wants it more," the safe money is on Harper. The sixth-year senior has flourished as Boise State's go-to guy in the backfield, racking up over 600 total yards and 6 TD's thus far. Granted, he's had a little help getting the job done.
Freshman Jay Ajayi (who is averaging over 8 yards per carry) is providing a power element to the Broncos' running game.The combination of his downhill style and D.J.'s speed and elusiveness has proved to be a success for Boise State's offense.
Harper smiled as he explained how different his body feels now that he's sharing carries with Ajayi. "I feel rested, I feel healthy... We definitely bring different dimensions to the game. I think he's a guy that can also break one at any time. You've seen how physical he is at running the ball, so when defenses try to focus on my speed and his strength, it's really hard to match up on."
For the Rebels- that combination could provide a whole new meaning to "growing pains" on Saturday.